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HSE Students Launch Their Start-ups

On April 15, the finale of the student project Battle of the Businesses, a sort of educational platform for young businessmen, will take place. Over the course of six weeks, participants have been creating their own businesses under the supervision of accomplished entrepreneurs, and they saw their projects go from the idea stage to realization and profit.

In early 2015, HSE bachelor’s and master’s students thought up the first reality show for students. Over a 1.5-month period, cameras watched as eight student teams from various universities were mentored by young entrepreneurs and tried to earn their first amount of money. Out of the 65 applications submitted to participate in the project, eight teams and eight different businesses were selected. The teams met with their mentors weekly to report on their successes. The most successful team will be declared the winner at the finale, and the winning team’s main prize will be a properly structured business and of course the profit it made in this timeframe.

The project’s finalists discuss how to make money off of bad vision, Instagram, sweatshirts with Chagall on them, and much more.

Business: eyesight corrector (coach - Oleg Torbosov, founder of the holding Financial Partners)

HSE 3rd year Advertising and Public Relations student Pavel Kramarenko   

Our team met at 'Molchanov Lab' at the HSE Business Incubator — we got through all the stages of the course successfully and now we are testing our plan’s resilience in the Battle of the Businesses reality show. The idea took shape when I met Andrey Bursov — he suggested the product that we based our plan on. Andrey’s father developed the instrument to maintain good vision for civil aviation pilots. Andrey had the idea to take it beyond aviation.  

We created a marketing package for it - gave the design a complete make-over and added functionality. We have signed a contract with a large pharmacy chain, A5, which is already launching our product. We’re also in talks with the MadRobots store to sell it. We’ll generate further sales through the site. Battle helped us a lot, particularly in working on internet sales - we’re grateful to our coach Oleg Torbosov for that.

Business: Team building (coach Ayaz Shabutdinov, founder of Like Holding)

HSE 3rd year Management student Vadim Manzon

We’ve had two ideas in Battle of the Businesses - team building and help in making colleagues redundant. Both are about management and staff interaction and are aimed at teaching and consulting. We chose team building as a business idea because several of my team members have been making money out of it for three years, now. Ayaz (Shabutdinov - a young entrepreneur from Izhevsk, our team coach) advised us to phone around potential clients. We called a thousand companies at colossal physical expense and with minimal results. Then we invented a kind of demo version of our project with a free class and we immediately got two clients. We did a free team building session for one company. The effect it had on the staff made us very happy - they were in this sad, dreary office and they were glad to have the training. The session helped the staff to bond with each other and we could see the results.   

Now we’re working on a name, to get it passing around on the grape-vine - it’s the best way to promote us. Our second idea for consulting on making staff redundant wasn’t supported by any clients. They all thought we were the secret services, they got scared and it doesn’t work on the phone, so we’re dropping the idea for the time being.  

 

Business: Sweatshirts with pictures by Russian artists (coach - Ayaz Shabutdinov)

HSE 2rd year World Economy student Petr Tokarev

Since I was a kid I’ve tried to make my own money. When I was 12 I started a ‘business’ sticking up advertisements in my district. A year ago I started selling sweatshirts under the brand name Craftman with prints of paintings by great artists - I got the idea from studying at HSE when there were so many trendy young people around with a lively interest in film, art, music and so on. I had to do something so I applied for Battle of the Businesses with five completely different ideas but they were all thrown out. I told Ayaz what I am doing at the moment and he suggested to grow out of the outsource format and sell franchises. We also opened a retail spot in the Shchuka shopping centre and our sales increased.

Why I think business is good: all my ideas are not just about earning money but about educating people - I want people to know about and to promote art even by simply wearing it. Even if someone doesn’t go to look at Chagall in a gallery, they know him and are proud of him through fashion. It’s better and more noble than selling t-shirts with cartoon characters, it makes it into a socially minded business.

Business: outsourced call-centre (coach - Kirill Fomichev, organiser of the Vverkh [Up] business school

HSE 2nd year Management student Vladimir Dyakov

We devised the project Call 24-7 specially for Battle of the Businesses because we reckoned that work with coaches would be fruitful. Two people in our team already have businesses, and they told us about a problem they were up against: how to take business calls when you are sitting in a class at university. Nearly all their orders come in in the morning. At first we just wanted to make money but then we began to fine-tune our idea and, recognizing its potential, we fell in love with it.

We are looking for people who are prepared to work on the phone from home. All our clients  - it’s the B2B sector, ie, people with businesses who need people in teleservices or telesales. A problem cropped up straight away - how do you motivate someone when they are working at a distance? Our coach helped us with this: leaning on his experience we realised that we need to check up on our staff. Even when we employ people on the other side of Russia, we need to make them feel that they are part of a collective. The key here is in looking for motivated people in the first place who are interested in sales and who know how to do it. And well - career growth is a bonus.  

Business: stock exchange advertising on Instagram (coach - Jan Sloka, co-founder of the online cinema Vidimax)

HSE 4th year Applied Mathematics and Information Science student Semyon Umilin

We are working on Instach — a project which offers a new channel to advertisers through posts on real accounts on Instagram. Advertising subscribers like ‘Want to lose weight?’ look attractive when our channel is real accounts and increases trust. Imagine: if a friend recommends a product you listen to them and respond. On our site people who want to place their advertisement register and so do people who want to make their accounts available for advertising. There is an inbox for each of them where they can see the ratings. If they agree the advertisements are sold. In his inbox the advertiser can see responses with statistics and can draw conclusions about whether it’s an effective way to advertise.

Experience showed us that this kind of promotion is fairly effective and doesn’t cost much.

The audience for Instagram is growing at an unbelievable rate and Russia is one of the five most actively increasing audiences in the world (25% per year). Besides, it is a direct visual transfer of information about a product and users perceive it on an emotional level so you get an immediate response. 

Business: course to get rid of a stammer (coach Ainur Abdulnasyrov, founder of the English language learning website LinguaLeo)

HSE-NES joint BA 3rd year student Anton Kholodkin

I was looking for a project that would interest me for a long time. Before Battle of the Businesses, my friend told me about someone he knew who treats stammering - I didn’t even know that it could be treated. So my friend and I decided to create a company 'Tua Vita' to help people solve those kind of problems. I found it really interesting for two reasons. Firstly - it could be a potentially profitable area. Secondly - you could feel that you are really helping people.

For Battle we got help finding specialists in treating stammers in Moscow who were prepared to work on our project and we finished building the website. When we started advertising online we immediately encountered a problem - the law on advertising medical services. We had to prove that what we were doing was not providing services but consultation. After about 20 phone calls to Google they finally allowed our ad to go through. During Battle it was quite difficult to get our project going because of our area of business. The narrow time frame wasn’t long enough to build the necessary level of trust for the advertising campaign and for users. To convince people that we were competent we needed to make them understand that we knew more about their problem. That was tricky. We had to study the problem and the market very thoroughly. At the moment we have managed to talk to 30 clients. Not a bad result at all, we can carry on.

See also:

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Student Projects Collect 5,069 HSEcoins Before Taking a Break

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HSE Science Battles Short-listed for the ‘Silver Archer’ Prize

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HSE Art and Design School Students Attend ADCR Awards

On September 19, 2017, a ceremony of the Art Directors Club Russia (ADCR) Awards took place in Moscow. Students from the HSE Art and Design School with their ‘Genders*’ and ‘Save Frisian’ projects took first and second prizes in the ‘Young & Students’ nomination. Furthermore, Oxana Paley, Curator at the HSE Art and Design School, took third place in the ‘Design & Craft’ nomination.

Management Decentralization Contributes to Better Business

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'Battle of the Businesses' and 'The Vyshka' Win Best Student Project in Russia Awards

Two HSE student projects have taken prizes at the All-Russian competition for communications projects Eventиада Awards 2015. The reality TV show Battle of the Businesses took first place for Best  Student Project while the online magazine The Вышка (The Vyshka) won third prize for Best Creative Project of the Year. Both projects were supported by the HSE Student  Initiative Fund.

‘ICEF Gave Me an Excellent Theoretical Grounding’

ICEF 2006 alumnus Yuri Kiselev is now head of debt capital markets in Russia and the CIS at Société Générale. In an interview for the ICEF website Yuri talked about his career and education in Russia and abroad.

Russian Businesses Underutilise New Media

Russian businesses have been slow in adopting new media tools. Many companies continue to rely on official websites to reach out to customers and avoid using social media and blogs, as they are not ready for an equal dialogue with external audiences, according to Iosif Dzyaloshinsky and Maria Pilgun, professors of the HSE Faculty of Communication, Media and Design.